Dogs barking, kids fighting in the background, phones ringing while you’re on video conference calls, the joy of getting booted unexpectedly from a Zoom call in the middle of speaking. Life happens when working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Work dynamics have certainly shifted from a year ago, and they’ll shift again as companies return to the office. The transition begs a host of questions and considerations for returning. What will working in the office look like? Who will come back? How can companies best support the transition to a post-pandemic workforce? How should leaders prepare?
These were some of the questions a recent panel of experts discussed at the 2021 Strategic Leadership Forum (SLF) session, “Vaccines, Mental Health and Office Space: The Post-Pandemic Shift”. Among the recognized industry thought leaders on the panel was SS&C’s Managing Director of Risk and Technology Services, Blair Williams. Prior to SS&C, Blair served more than two decades in the U.S. Army during which he was deployed multiple times. As a retired military officer, Blair brought a unique perspective and practical ideas to the discussion. Some of his insights are included here:
Returning to the office should be viewed as a reintegration requiring a period of adjustment
When soldiers return home from a deployment, there’s the elation that is often followed by a period of disruptive adjustment for service members and their families. The military refers to this period as reintegration. Going back to the office will be refreshing and exciting for many people. However, there will be major stressors that may not appear immediately. Some employees may now find the office environment too loud and unsettling. Others may become anxious about their health after returning to work. Some associates may only know coworkers from working remotely, which presents a communication adjustment period. To assume that everything will be as it was before the pandemic is a mistake. Reintegration will spark stress. Firms will need to keep that in mind when transitioning back to the office.
Leadership presence during reintegration is critical
When planning for the return to the office, the safety and health of employees and their families must be of utmost importance. Leadership presence will help ameliorate anxiety and health concerns as people integrate together. Leaders need to be front and center since they play a vital role in building a culture around behavioral expectations. For some firms, this may mean having employees undergo a temperature screening before entering the building and wearing a mask. Whatever the protective protocols are for a firm, leaders need to hold everyone to the standard and ensure employees feel empowered to correct behavior if anyone (including a senior leader) isn’t following the standard.
As associates reintegrate, they also need to rebalance
As COVID-19 thrust people into a remote work environment in early 2020, the stock market was volatile, triggering sharp upticks in processing, trading and call center volumes at SS&C and many of our clients. Our teams worked extended hours as we pivoted to remotely support customers and adapt to the new business environment. Many associates still continue to devote significant time to their professional lives at a pace that is unsustainable over the long-term for mental health and happiness. Returning to the office provides the opportunity to rebalance. We need to remind ourselves and our teams that there are 168 hours in a week. As part of that, we need to devote time to work. But we also need to sleep, eat, and make time for ourselves and our families. In short, we need to take care of ourselves and our mental health in order to reenergize for both our personal and professional lives.
When bringing associates back to the office, consider the character and nature of their roles
COVID-19 has engendered a wholesale examination of the nature and location of work. Many notable companies have announced broad-based, remote working policies that will apply once the pandemic is over. As firms consider this new hybrid approach (some work on-site, some work at home, etc.), they should examine the inherent roles that people fill to determine whether these policies should apply. For instance, in-office call center employees benefit from having the flexibility to walk over to a colleague’s desk to ask a question. Or perhaps your firm wants the management team to be onsite with the call center team for audit and regulatory controls. Alternatively, there are roles, such as application development, where on-site collaboration is not a necessity as technology staff members are more comfortable with collaboration via chat and digital code development repositories. Regardless of the location, the pandemic has made us all more resilient where in-office presence is not the factor it once was. With these lessons learned, SS&C has continued to grow and adapt to further improve processes and procedures, including optimizing our technologies to better meet our clients’ expectations.
How can we help you?
As firms transition back to the office, they will relook at projects that were pushed to the back burner due to the pandemic. These projects may fall outside the realm of “business-as-usual” and have now become a priority, potentially creating new challenges around your daily operations and jeopardizing your ability to meet customers’ service expectations. SS&C can help.
During the pandemic, SS&C not only continued to maintain our clients’ normal operational requirements, but we also supported specific events related to the CARES Act as well as the Paycheck Protection Program for loans through the U.S. Small Business Association. These important, one-time activities included data entry, document review and call center support.
As highlighted above, we specialize in disruptive event support for businesses that depend on customer service by phone, mail and digital communications. We can design and execute a custom plan to accommodate your unique event whether it impacts millions of customers or smaller target populations. We will initiate and conclude your project to suit your needs and will provide expertise at appropriate levels... more when it is required and less when it is not.
If you’re interested in learning about the types of projects leading firms are outsourcing and why they’re choosing this strategy, download our "SS&C Flex Client Case Studies" booklet.
Written by Traci Presley
Vice President, Strategic Client Relationships, Global Investor and Distribution Solutions